Life of a young gardener – Jack Shilley

Young HortHi There! My name is Jack Shilley; I’m 19 years old and i have an incredible passion for horticulture and growing your own. This is my first blog for Thompson & Morgan so I thought I’d take this opportunity to share with you my horticultural story – so that you get to know me a bit better before I start sharing my Thompson & Morgan product experiences with you all.

My horticultural passion, expertise and background lies within the horticultural retail and business sectors which I adore. I also have a growing passion for journalism, media and broadcast horticulture which I hope one day will become my full time career. Oh and vegetables, fruit & tropical’s are my favourite plants to grow!

Young HortI started gardening around the age of 6 years old when my parents first bought me a small, pop up greenhouse in which I could start growing a few things. I was lucky enough to attend Ranelagh CofE School (Secondary school) where they had a thriving gardening club run by Peter Seabrook’s daughter (Alison Seabrook-Moore). As part of this gardening club, and under the guidance of Peter himself, we were lucky enough to exhibit a garden at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in 2009. This was an incredible experience for a 14 year old and turned my gardening hobby in to my long term horticultural career.

After I completed my GCSE’s and one year of A-level study, I undertook a level 3 extended diploma in horticulture at Sparsholt College Hampshire – and I’ve never looked back! Sparsholt was a great place to study and I graduated in June 2014 with a distinction star grade – you can’t get any better than that! During my second year of study I was lucky enough to once again design, build and exhibit an RHS Chelsea Flower Show garden. Being more involved this time was stressful, fun and tiring all at once. When results day came it was the greatest feeling in the world to be so highly reward for all our classes’ hard work by achieving a Gold medal and best in category! Amazing!

RHS Chelsea Flower Show

After graduation I was accepted for a position with the National Tropical Botanical gardens on the island of Kauai, in Hawaii. This was an amazing experience and I learned loads about one of my favourite plant categories – tropical’s! Working with these exotic plants in Kauai’s unique climate and landscape was just inspiring and the other interns who I lived and worked with were also awesome!

I am currently working in horticultural retail at a garden centre in Bagshot and I am hoping to head back to Sparsholt to attain my horticulture degree in September 2015 for 3 years. I also started YoungHort in December 2013 – which you can find out more about here.

And that’s all about Jack! (Me in a nutshell!!)

More to come ….

Thompson & Morgan
Since the first seed catalogue was published in 1855, Thompson & Morgan has grown to become one of the UK’s largest Mail Order Seed and Plant companies. Through the publication of our catalogues and the operation of our award-winning website, Thompson & Morgan is able to provide home gardeners with the very best quality products money can buy.

ITV and new trial plants – update from Driftwood

Since my last blog for Thompson & Morgan, back at the beginning of July, so much has happened in the garden! Not only have we seen over 2,200 visitors over the summer, but have raised over £16,000 for charity, this year alone! The icing on the cake came when ITV’s Good Morning Britain filmed live from the garden on the 14th July. All weather girl, Laura Tobin’s, 9 reports that day came live from the garden, here in Sussex. Overall the garden had 10 minutes coverage on the show. I was also very fortunate to be interviewed twice by Laura on live ITV TV too! All the details of the film shoot along with the gossip can be seen on my web site .


Then, in early October, the new local TV station in the Brighton area, Latest TV, agreed to a weekly gardening segment of about 10 minutes on their Latest Homes Live show each week. So far they have filmed a dozen segments in the garden and aired about half of them! Once again they can be viewed via my web site!


Dahlia ‘Fire & Ice’

All this excitement along with seeing the wonderful trial plants from Thompson & Morgan flourishing in the garden too.  All these images shown were taken in mid to late October 2014 and the flowers have looked quite amazing this year! Some from 2013, like the Dahlia Fire & Ice, Rose Garden Party, Peruvian tree lilly and Fuchsia Duke of Wellington have looked utterly stunning for a second year!  The Osteospermum Tresco Purple, delivered last Autumn really took off in the spring and are still looking amazing in November in several clumps around the garden.


Rose Garden Party

New for 2014 were the Penstemon Wedding bells which flowered very late in the season. The Antirrhinum Candy cane have been amazing as well in white, red and yellow.  The stunning red ones are looking incredible with the Begonia Crispa Marginata in front of it in a pot in the garden.  Other amazing flowers have been the enormous blooms on the fuchsia Quasar, which have had many comments from garden visitors. There is a clump of osteospermum bronze as visitors entered the garden and they had many positive comments, looking amazing throughout the later summer months.


Begonia Crispa Marginata

Winter is fast approaching and the strong winds and rain here on the south coast has meant a real change in the garden in the last few days but there has been time to get out and start to tidy it up. First on the list was the trimming of the 3 large New Zealand Flax in the garden, which you can see me working on here.


There have been some new plants delivered this autumn to trial, like the Hydrangea Love, Camelia Cupido, Clematis ‘New Love‘ and Rose ‘Sweet Spot Calypso’ , all now planted out in the garden ready to amaze visitors in 2015. So here’s to a great year in 2015 both for the Thompson & Morgan plants and the garden generally.

Geoff Stonebanks
Geoff Stonebanks was very lucky to be able to retire early from 30 years in Royal Mail back in 2004. He had 3 different careers with them first as a caterer, then manager of a financial analysis team and finally as an Employee Relations Manager and Personnel Manager. He sold up and moved with his partner to Bishopstone, near Seaford in East Sussex in 2004 and now spends all his time gardening and fundraising for Macmillan Cancer Support. Using his multi award-winning garden as a base, first opened to the public in 2009, he has raised over £47000 for various charities in 4 years, £23300 of that for Macmillan. In his spare time, he is also Assistant County Organiser for the National Gardens Scheme and their Publicity Officer for East & Mid Sussex. Every 4 weeks he writes an article about his garden for Garden News Magazine.

Thrive – the benefits of gardening

Thrive is the leading charity in the UK that uses gardening to bring about positive changes in the lives of people who are living with disabilities or ill health, or are isolated, disadvantaged or vulnerable.


This process is known as social and therapeutic horticulture (STH). It uses plants and gardens to improve physical and mental health, as well as strengthen communication skills. Using gardening as a safe and secure place to develop someone’s ability to mix socially and make friends and to learn practical skills is now a proven therapy.

Thrive horticultural therapists use gardening tasks to build a set of activities for each gardener to address their particular health needs, and to work on goals they want to achieve. Last year Thrive worked with over 1,440 client gardeners


What’s so special about gardening?

Gardens are peaceful and restorative. They provide a special place for rehabilitation and recovery. And, being given the opportunity to develop an interest in gardening will give a person benefits that can last a lifetime.

The benefits of an active interest in gardening are:

–          better physical health from exercise and learning how to use or strengthen muscles to increase mobility

–          improved mental health from gaining a sense of purpose and achievement

–          the opportunity to connect with other people – reducing feelings of being alone or left out

–          feeling better for being outdoors, in touch with nature and seeing plants grow, all things that are known to be important to us as human beings

–          the opportunity to learn new things.


More than good health

Improving good health and well-being are at the heart of therapeutic horticulture and there are also other benefits for people who take up gardening.

These benefits are: developing new skills, learning about food growing and what is good to eat, becoming fitter, boosting confidence with new-found knowledge and using this knowledge, and possibly a qualification in horticulture, to get a job.


About Thrive’s work

We work with a wide range of people… people who have injuries from accidents; people with learning impairment; people with mental illness; people with physical impairment such as sight or hearing loss; people with age-related conditions such as dementia, heart problems, diabetes or stroke; young people who have social, emotional or behavioural difficulties; and people who have ill health after leaving the armed forces.

We work in variety of ways. We run therapeutic programmes at our garden sites in London, Reading, Birmingham and Gateshead. We also go out to care homes, village halls, and community projects to encourage gardening activities. And we have a special website that gives lots of information about how anyone can continue gardening at home.


Thrive carries out research

We have brought together a lot of evidence and experience to show exactly how gardening brings about great changes.To spread this knowledge, we run training courses for anyone interested in using horticulture for health and well-being.

In our next blog we will introduce you to some of the people we help.


How you can help and support Thrive

DONATE today. Text Thri02 and the amount you want to give

to 70070; phone us on 0118 988 5688 or donate online at

VOLUNTEER with us in London, Reading, Birmingham or Gateshead

FOLLOW US on Twitter (@thrivecharity) or LIKE our Facebook page

SIGN UP for our newsletters and mailings

For more information contact telephone 0118 988 5688.



Thompson & Morgan
Since the first seed catalogue was published in 1855, Thompson & Morgan has grown to become one of the UK’s largest Mail Order Seed and Plant companies. Through the publication of our catalogues and the operation of our award-winning website, Thompson & Morgan is able to provide home gardeners with the very best quality products money can buy.

One allotment, two children and a caravan

Hello. I’m Urvashi and I have an allotment in Enfield. I waited a while for it and had almost given up hope when the phone rang and the ever so lovely membership chap said I had three plots to choose from.

I went for the one with the tree and the caravan. I knew my girls would love both.



It’s a pretty big plot. Here’s the other end when we first got it. There were some raspberry canes left growing but pretty much everything else was covered in grass and weeds.



That first day, we sat and took it all in. Granddad came over with his soil kit and helped us test the soil and clay. Well it didn’t really need the soil kit to tell us that as the allotments are called Clay Hill Allotments! But he gave us a little advice on what to plant to break up the soil and how to sort the raspberry canes out.

Of course we just wanted to clear and dig and after pretty much the whole day doing just, that this is where we left it.


A little tidier for sure. We sat back and set ourselves a couple of principles to work by:

–          We would try to do it all by hand – no machines – where would they plug in anyway?

–          We would not use any chemicals or pesticides or artificial growing aids – all natural on our plot.

And then the decisions of what to plant! That’s when we discovered the Thompson & Morgan site among other blogs and reference sources to try and be as informed as possible. We settled on beetroot, potatoes, broad beans, dahlias, strawberries from Granddad and courgettes (for the flowers). We added to this list of the “ordinary” some unusual , some would say quirky items – tomatillos, quinoa (!) and gojiberries.

We left that day so inspired and elated but worried about the birds, deer and all manner of little creatures that would invade our plot while we were away. It was agreed that some guardians would need to be put in place and Mr and Mrs S Crow came to the rescue.


Since that first day, we’ve been visiting as regularly as we’ve been able to. In the summer months I got rather obsessed with watering every evening and then got sucked in to the peace and clam of the allotment doing a little bit of pottering until the sun went down.

I’ve photographed the journey and been blogging about my planting, the produce and the things I’ve cooked with our wonderful allotment bounty.

I look forward to sharing them here too.


About Urvashi Roe

Urvashi and her family are on a journey of discovery with their allotment in Clay Hill in Enfield. Urvashi put her name down on the waiting list hoping to give the keys as an unusual present for her husband’s 40th birthday. He got his present a few years later and the family are now obsessed with growing the traditional and the unusual. Urvashi blogs at and tweets at @BotanicalBaker

Thompson & Morgan
Since the first seed catalogue was published in 1855, Thompson & Morgan has grown to become one of the UK’s largest Mail Order Seed and Plant companies. Through the publication of our catalogues and the operation of our award-winning website, Thompson & Morgan is able to provide home gardeners with the very best quality products money can buy.

Photo competition winners 2014

This is our favourite time of year, when we get to judge all the stunning entries to our competitions. However, this year we decided to do things a little differently and we asked you to help us pick the winning photos.

Michael Perry short listed each category down to his six favourites of which we then posted onto facebook. You then chose your favourite photo by hitting the like button, the one with most likes won. Simples!

Thank you to everyone who entered and big congratulations to all of our winners.

So here are you winning entries for our 2014 categories;

Indredibloom® competition  (selected by Thompson & Morgan)

Lindsey Cooper – Harrogate

Lindsey used basil seeds from the same pack, same bag of compost, same size pots. However, used the Incredibloom® fertiliser in one pot. This is a wonderful reflection of our ground breaking plant feed.


Plant a portrait

Barbara Thomas – Blackpool



Wildlife competition

Kate Duckmanton – Buckingham

photo competition


Begonia competition

Robert Leeke  – Crewe

photo competition

Basket Challenge

John Alan Sinclair – Alnwick

photo competition


Beds and borders competition

John Alan Sinclair – Alnwick

photo competition

Unusual fruit and veg competition

Jenny Clancy – Chelmsford

photo competition

Fruit and Veg competition

Helen Crewdson – Surbiton

photo competition

Patio Garden competition

Kathleen Bethell – Nottingham

photo competition

Thank you to everyone who voted for their favourite photo. Don’t forget to keep your eyes peeled for next years photo competition for a chance to win great prizes. You dont always have to wait for our competitions, we love to see your photos everyday so please feel free to post them on our facebook and twitter pages. :)

Terri Overett
Terri works in the e-commerce marketing department assisting the busy web team. Terri manages our blog and social media pages here at Thompson & Morgan and is dedicated to providing useful advice to our gardeners. Terri is new to gardening and keen to develop her horticultural knowledge.

Buddleja – the new patio plant?

Purple Leaf Blackthorn shares her Suffolk garden, on a rural windswept site, with chatty cats, free-range chickens and ducks as well as a rich local fauna of birds, rabbits, rats, moorhens and deer.  With a focus on diversity, scent and colour – foliage or flower, whilst competing with the strong prevailing winds … it’s a survival of the fittest approach to gardening.


Buddlejas are rather tough hardy strong plants, so when this tiny twig arrived, Buddleja davidii  ‘Colour Fountain Blue’, I didn’t hold out much hope for its survival.  So the plug was planted into a 7cm pot and overwintered in our cold greenhouse.


Come spring 2014, I did not know what to do with this ‘twig’, which certainly didn’t look tough enough to make it into our garden let alone a blackbird’s nest!  So I planted it in a patio pot along with some Lobelia ‘Ultra Cascade’ … another delicate plant.  Needless to say the lobelia took off, as they say with a little help from their friends (fertiliser Incredibloom ®) and the buddleja grew at a steady pace, though initially overshadowed by its’ half-hardy but butterfly-friendly neighbour, the lobelia .  Thanks to this year’s fantastic early summer weather ‘Colour Fountain Blue’ burst into flower … well certainly before any related garden-planted Buddleja davidii cultivars.  Not only that, the beautifully disproportionally-sized racemes accentuated a naturally weeping habit.  The name ‘Fountain’ could not be more appropriate.  Who would have thought a butterfly bush could be used as a patio plant extraordinaire!


If you don’t have this one growing in a patio pot … you’re butterflies are missing out!  Current research still places Chinese Buddleja davidii cultivars at the top of the butterfly a-la-carte buffet on account of their high sucrose content.  And Butterfly Conservation says butterflies are in decline.  We can help!


Buddleja ‘Colour Fountain Blue’ – petite and posh, could this be the new patio hanging basket plant?  Perhaps!  Now I wait in anticipation for any new colours to join the ‘Fountain’ range.


Purple Leaf Blackthorn

Thompson & Morgan
Since the first seed catalogue was published in 1855, Thompson & Morgan has grown to become one of the UK’s largest Mail Order Seed and Plant companies. Through the publication of our catalogues and the operation of our award-winning website, Thompson & Morgan is able to provide home gardeners with the very best quality products money can buy.

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